Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Early Impressions

Image from comicbook.com

You can’t judge a game by its first two hours, but you can fault it for making a really poor first impression.

Despite carrying the “baggage” of being a JRPG and competing with Mario, Link, and Pikachu for attention, the Xenoblade Chronicles series has become yet another successful Nintendo franchise, with both the original Wii title and its spiritual successor Xenoblade Chronicles X earning both critical acclaim and commercial success (or at least as much commercial success as a Wii U title can). This success earned the series a place in Nintendo’s vaunted first-year Switch lineup, as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was given a spot beside Super Mario Odyssey in the company’s 2017 holiday lineup.

I’ve never actually played any of the Xenoblade games, but I recently got the opportunity to observe a friend go through the first few hours of gameplay, and…honestly, it could have gone a lot better. I understand that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a huge, ambitious game that needs to deliver a lot of information during the opening episodes, but it drowns the player in so many tutorials and cutscenes that it honestly feels like you’re watching a movie rather than playing the game.

Some of my specific thoughts on the game:

  • The game promises to offer an open-world experience, and while it certainly looks the part (the graphics are sharp and detailed), the first few worlds felt more like the sandboxes of Super Mario Odyssey than the vast expanse that was Hyrule in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There are a lot of restrictive obstacles and no way to traverse them (Rex jumps higher than Link, but lacks his climbing skills), and the area layouts felt more linear than they should have been. With games like Skyrim and Breath of the Wild setting a higher standard for “open-world” games, I’m not sure XC2 qualifies.
  • The amount of breaks in the action for tutorials and cutscenes is just aggravating. It felt like we spent at least 50% of our gameplay time sitting around watching things happen. There were even several moments where a long cutscene ended, the player was allowed to walk about fifty feet, and then another long cutscene ensued. Why even give control back to the player if they would barely be allowed to move? I know there’s a lot of data to digest and story to tell in the beginning, but there had to be a better, more-engaging way to deliver it all.
  • Given all the cutscenes we had to watch, the good news is that they were at least fairly epic and entertaining (although the voice acting didn’t always match the intensity of the scene, and was sometimes drowned out by the background music). The character design thus far feels like a net positive, with unambiguously good and evil characters that generate sympathy and/or emotion as they interact. I just wish they didn’t repeat combat phrases so often in battle: If XC2 were more popular, Pyra’s “Our emotions are in tune!” line would have become the next “arrow to the knee” meme by now.
  • Combat here is a strange mix of Secret of ManaMiitopia, and the Mario & Luigi series, and it’s not terribly satisfying. The fights occur in real time,  and both players and enemies can move freely about the battlefield without restriction. Basic combat involves drawing your weapon, walking up to an enemy, and pressing A to start automatically attacking it. Basic attacks are fairly slow and don’t require any user input, but these attacks will charge up your character’s “Driver Arts,” or special moves that deal extra damage or produce other effects. In turn, using these Arts charge up your character’s final ability (which can be charge up to four levels), and unleashing it requires you to press a button at a certain time for maximum effect. (There are also ways to chain attacks together between different party members, but we did not encounter this in our playthrough.) In theory, battles are a delicate choreography between Drivers (playable characters) and their Blades (weapon manifestations with different elemental types and abilities), but in reality, you’re mostly sitting around waiting to hit buttons at the right time.
  • The controls for this game are surprisingly loose, and there are more technical issues (especially with respect to collision detection) than there should be. Aerial movements (either jumping or falling) are annoyingly floaty, and make the few small platforming challenges that you encounter a real pain to complete. We also witnessed a few bizarre moments in battle, with Rex entering auto-attack mode and slicing an enemy despite them being a) nowhere near Rex on the ground or b) high above Rex’s head.

I wasn’t playing XC2, but if I had been, would I have been motivated to keep going? To be honest, I’m not sure: I’ve always been a sucker for cool stories and good character design, but this combat system would have made me pull out what little hair I have left. For the moment, I’m filing this under the same category as Kirby Battle Royale: It’s not interesting enough to pursure further, but I don’t have enough info to offer an offical ‘buy’ or ‘don’t buy’ recommendation. My Switch game budget will be going towards Dragon Quest Builders instead.

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Kirby: Triple Deluxe: Is It Worth Buying?

Image From Nintendo UK

Now that Nintendo is on record saying the 3DS isn’t going anywhere for a while, I think it’s time to dig into the system’s back catalog and revisit some classic titles to see if they still deserve your love/dollars. For my money, there’s no better place to start than everyone’s favorite amorphous pink ball of death Jigglypuff Kirby!

The dirty secret of the Kirby franchise is that its mainline games are incredibly formulaic: flying, copying abilities, simple gameplay with minimal challenge, a sudden stake-raising moment at the end that leads to an epic boss fight, and some tough-as-nails postgame content. Once you’ve played one of these games, you’ve basically played them all, give or take an occasional title-specific gimmick (I’m still waiting for playable Nago to come back). “Formulaic,” however, does not mean “not fun to play,” and in general Kirby games inhabit that same magical place that Pokémon games do: You might do the same thing 100 times, but it’s just as fun to do the last time as it is the first.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe was the pink puffball’s first foray onto the 3DS (outside of a bunch of Virtual Console releases), and it’s exactly what you’d expect a Kirby  game to be. A few new copy abilities have been introduced (Archer being the most useful for its range, but also Beetle, Bell, and Circus), and aside from Sleep (which is meant to be a trap), all of them end up having enough utility to grab in a pinch. There are a few small puzzles scattered around the game (mostly tied to the collectables, and some of which make use of the 3DS’s gyro controls), but by and large it’s your typical Kirby platforming experience, with the usual level and enemy design (most of the mini-bosses have been around since Kirby’s Adventure, and Whispy Woods, Kracko, and King DeDeDe all return as world bosses).

Triple Deluxe‘s primary gimmick the Hypernova ability, which increases Kirby’s suction power and lets him inhale bosses, large objects and even pieces of the background in a single gulp. It only appears in certain stages, but it fits seamlessly within the rest of the gameplay and was a ton of fun to use (inhaling four mini-bosses in one go was particularly cathartic). I actually preferred Hypernova to the robot armor of Planet Robobot (it felt more natural and didn’t restrict the rest of Kirby’s moveset), but it led to an ending sequence that didn’t feel as satisfying.

There are two primary collectibles to find here: Sun stones, which unlock secret stages within each world, and “keychains” of different characters from past Kirby games. They’re not terribly hard to find (although locating the rare keychains make take a bit of sleuthing), and aside from the boss stages requiring a certain number of stones to unlock, they don’t impact the gameplay at all.

The game comes with two additional game modes from the start: Kirby Fighters, which is basically a watered-down version of Kirby Battle Royale (which I wasn’t that impressed with), and Dedede’s Drum Dash, a rhythm that forces you to bounce along a drum course while collecting coins, avoiding enemies, and clapping along with the beat. Neither minigame is worth writing home about, but they do seem to be required for a 100% completion rating. The unlockable modes, however, are a bit more interesting:

  • Dededetour: Lets you play through a harder version of the main campaign as King Dedede.
  • The Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush with limited health and abilities.
  • The True Arena: The usual Kirby boss rush, but with the harder version of the bosses from Dededetour. This is where things get real.

For those of you looking for a bit more pain and challenge from your Kirby experience, this’ll cover you.

Given all this, we need to answer the following questions:

  • Is this game worth buying? If you’re a fan of Kirby or platforming in general, yes. This game delivers everything you want from a 2D platformer, including (eventually) a nasty-hard test of mettle. It’s a game I would especially recommend for younger or newer players, as a) Kirby’s flight ability let you bypass any non-boss situation you might have trouble with, and b) it’s a gently-sloped difficulty curve that’s much more considerate of your ego/confidence level than a game like Breath of the Wild.
  • Should I buy this game or Planet Robobot? From a gameplay perspective, it’s a “six of one, a half dozen of the other” situation. Outside of a few tweaks, the game are basically the exact same. However, there is one notable meta difference: As a “Nintendo Select” title, Triple Deluxe now retails for half the price of Planet Robobot ($20 as compared to $40). If you only want one of the two, Triple Deluxe is definitely the better value.

As someone who hadn’t played a Kirby title since Kirby’s Dream Land 3, I really enjoyed both Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot. Both were great experiences, but Triple Deluxe‘s reduced price make it a much better investment. (Now let’s see if Kirby: Star Allies can meet the same standard.)

Is Your Wii/Wii U Safe On The Internet?

Is it time to load Linux on this thing?

Producing a Switch version of Smash Bros. isn’t just a marketing necessity. It’s essential for the nation’s cybersecurity!

Even as the Switch and its games post mind-blowing sales numbers, a fair amount of Wii Us remain in service and online. The console still boasts a few top-notch home-console exclusives (Super Smash Bros. for Wii USuper Mario Maker, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, etc.), and thus the device will maintain a notable network presence for many months to come. In a vacuum, this isn’t a problem: Having an old N64 or Super Nintendo, for example, isn’t going to cause any problems (unless you trip over it, or decide to use it as a blunt instrument). However, adding an Internet connection to an old console changes the equation substantially.

The last few years have brought about a smart device revolution, as everything from light bulbs to refrigerators to toilets are being networked together to gather data and receive commands from almost anywhere. There’s a lot of convenience and insight to be had within this “Internet of Things,” but there’s also a large amount of risk involved, as networked devices are often as exposed (and as vulnerable) to hackers,  malware, etc. as  laptops, smartphones, and servers are. Nowadays, it doesn’t even matter if the hacked device has any valuable data by itself—any system that can provide a foothold on a network or serve as a mindless bot for an attacker is worth compromising.

While there’s no silver bullet vendors and consumers can use when it comes to cybersecurity, there are some accepted best practices that can be adopted to minimize a person’s risk. Tops among these practices is this: Keep the software on your device up to date. When a vulnerability is discovered, the device manufacturer will (usually) produce a patch that fixes the original bug and keeps a would-be attacker from exploiting the flaw. These patches are rolled into the device’s latest software release, so installing the most-recent version of your device’s software give you the best protection against vulnerabilities.

However, once a vendor discontinues their support for a product, any vulnerabilities that are found afterwards are left unpatched, and the longer a piece software is in the wild, the more time an attacker has to probe it for flaws and exploits. Therefore, any out-of-support device on the network carries a significant risk of being compromised, one that only grows as the device ages.

Nintendo, like other software companies, is acutely aware of the risks associated with exploiting their software, and tends to do a decent job of staying on top of software updates for its supported consoles. For example, the Switch’s system software has been updated 10 times since its release last year, with the most recent version coming out last December. (Not all of these with specifically security patches, but it’s safe to assume that any patches for flaws the company was aware of were included in these updates.) The 3DS, for its part, has been updated a whopping 53 times since its release (roughly once every 1.5 months), with its last release coming last September. (I’m hoping that the Big N going 4.5 months and counting without a 3DS software update means that haven’t had any major issues to correct, but it still makes me nervous…)

The Wii U, however, is where things start to get concerning: Reggie Fils-Aime went on record over a year ago saying that “we really are at the end of life for Wii U,” and the system hasn’t received a software update since last July. For comparison purposes, having a Wii U on your network now is like leaving a laptop running Windows Vista connected to the Internet (extended support for Vista ended last April). The original Wii’s situation is even more dire: The last software update it got was it in 2010, making it the equivalent of a Windows 2000 machine sitting on your home network.

Given that online play for the Wii was discontinued in 2014, there is absolutely no reason for it to be left out like a sitting duck on the Internet. The Wii U, however, is a tougher call: Its online services are still active (as mentioned earlier, it’s the only way for Smash Bros. and Mario Maker players to get their online fix), and it’s not like there are any exploits out there wreaking havoc on consoles right this very minute. (In fact, given the console’s paltry install base, it may not even be a lucrative-enough market for cybercriminals to target.) I would argue, however, that the risks to the player/owner are much higher than even the Switch: In addition to being a potential pivot point for an attack, it’s got a built-in microphone and camera on its Gamepad that could be used for eavesdropping. (The Switch only has an IR camera in a Joy-Con, and no mic at all.)

Using the Wii U’s online features is a personal choice, of course, and there are still some compelling arguments to connect it to the Internet. (Without the network, how will I ever complete more Super Expert Mario Maker runs?) It’s important to keep in mind, however, that whenever you boot up your console, you may not be the only one watching.

Nintendo Labo: Right Idea, Wrong Price Point

In the latest installment of Nintendo being Nintendo, the company has turned its latest console into a piano, an RC car, and a giant robot. It’s an intriguing idea, but it feels a bit pricey for its target audience.

In a sense, Nintendo Labo occupies a middle ground between traditional console games and toy-to-life accessories such as amiibo. Players are guided through putting together a series of cardboard apparatuses by the software, and can then insert the Switch console and “Toy-Cons” into the finished products to make music, hook virtual fish, and take part in all sorts of different activities. On top of all that, Nintendo has explicitly included a “discover” piece to the puzzle, letting players observe the inner working of their devices, learn the hows behind the whys of their new toys, and perhaps even make custom modifications to test the limits of their creations.

Admittedly, my inner gamer is not particularly excited over all this: The phrase “some assembly required” makes my eyes glaze over, and the activities themselves don’t feel like they have a lot of replay value. My inner STEM educator, however, is jumping for joy over Nintendo Labo, and wondering just how far the “discovery” portion of these kits can stretch.

I’ve bumped into a surprising number of hackers and security researchers in my travels, and I’ve always been curious about how they discovered their passion and found their way onto their current career paths. Most of them have a similar genesis story: They were endlessly curious about the world in their youth, and were forever taking things apart to see how they worked. This is exactly the sort of behavior Nintendo is encouraging with Nintendo Labo: Unlike the black boxes that are Super Mario Odyssey and most other video games, these cardboard contraptions are specifically designed for their inner workings to be visible and explainable.

In a world in desperate need of technology professionals and where math/science education is a major priority, Nintendo Labo is exactly the sort of game we need to show children the wonderful world of technology and how things works, and even inspire a few to eventually make this a career choice. (While I’m still not sure the Joy-Cons needed all the technology Nintendo gave them, Nintendo Labo is a much better use of said tech than, say, 1-2 Switch.)

All that being said…did the financial barrier to entry have to be this high?

Nintendo Labo kits are currently available for pre-order at the eye-popping price of $70-$80. The world is used to games with extra peripherals costing extra, but given that the system you need to play it on is already $300, investing $450 just to let your child build a cardboard robot feels a bit too rich for my blood. I feel like this kind of price tag is going to exclude a lot of people from the game, and as something that feels more like an educational tool than a source of entertainment (i.e., something that everyone should have the chance to try out), that doesn’t feel right.

Yes, I know the 3DS is old and outdated, but at $150 or less, it’s also a lot easier on a family’s bottom line. I really wish Nintendo had put together a Labo-like product for its older handheld, in order to allow more people to try it out.

We only have what we have, however, and what we have is still pretty darn impressive (after all, I don’t see Sony or Microsoft turning their consoles into musical instruments). I probably won’t check out Nintendo Labo much myself, but I’m excited that a lot of younger players will, and wish that even more could too.

Kirby Battle Royale: Early Impressions

There’s an art to making repetitive gaming fun. There’s also an art to making a demo that enticing players to play the full game. Unfortunately, Kirby Battle Royale pulls off neither.

Kirby will be making the jump to the Switch in a couple of months, but the franchise is getting one last hurrah on the 3DS with Kirby Battle Royale, a multiplayer-focused title offering gameplay that’s a strange combination of Mario Party and Mortal Kombat. I was nervous about how much mileage a player like me (who has no local friends with a 3DS) would get out of the game, and after playing through the demo a few times, I’m afraid the answer is “Not much.”

Part of this is the fault of the demo itself: The trailers showcase lots of different game modes and player abilities, but you’re limited to just three of each in the demo (and one of each has to be unlocked), and you only get to play a limited number of games per day (five single player, seven multiplayer). The single-player campaign gets a brief spotlight at the beginning of the demo, but otherwise it’s locked away completely, and you’re given little taste of how the mode will feel. (Kirby headgear customization is also missing from the demo, which makes all the competitors look and feel the same.) In short, there’s just no a lot here to judge the game, and certainly not enough to draw the player in.

Of course, a limited content release would be tolerable if the content that you got was engaging, but none of the game modes I played held my interest for very long. You’re limited to 2v2 battle royales, apple-picking contests, and a first-to-ten series of short challenges (the strangest of which is trying to stand on an area representing the correct answer to a question like “4 + 5” while trying to knock your opponent out of said area). Both the maps (small) and the controls (attacks are various combinations of the B and Y buttons) felt overly constraining, and there wasn’t any strategy involved beyond frantic button-mashing. In the end, I was just mindlessly completing the game to unlock the various modes so I could finish this review and go back to more-interesting games that got repetitive gaming right (PokémonMiitopia, etc.)

In short, Kirby Battle Royale lacked everything: Very few modes were available, and what was available didn’t hold my interest for long. Still, I’m hesitant to say “it’s not worth buying” because:

  • The demo does not give us a complete-enough picture of the game, and
  • Everything is more interesting when played with friends, right?

However, what I saw here raised a lot of questions about how good the full game is actually going to be. If you’re looking for a fun Kirby experience on the 3DS, I’d say Kirby: Planet Robobot (or even Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which is available as a Nintendo Select title for half price) is a much safer bet.

Dragon Quest Builders: Early Impressions

Have you ever found yourself playing Minecraft and thinking “Gosh, I wish this game had better graphics and a real story mode?” If so, Dragon Quest Builders in the game for you.

I’ve never actually played Minecraft, but I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of freeform construction, and some of the crazy things I’ve seen people put together within the game have been pretty impressive. The game, however, has some glaring shortcomings, namely the rudimentary graphics and the lack of a story beyond survival mode (although Minecraft Story Mode was a step towards rectifying the story issue). In contrast, Dragon Quest has a long history with RPGs a features a distinct, Dragon Ball-esque art style, but falls far short of the no-rules sandbox gameplay Minecraft provides. Put the two together, and you’ve got Dragon Quest Builders, an intriguing take on the open-world genre that combines the best aspects of both franchises in an attempt to cash in on the Minecraft phenomenon.

The game has been available on non-Nintendo hardware for over a year now, but it recently received a February release date for the Switch, and the original demo was announced for the console (barely) during the recent Nintendo Direct. It’s not a terribly long demo, but it showcases the game’s mechanics and introduces the story, and after playing it, I found that the game hit more often than it missed:

  • The game looks and runs well on the Switch, and the graphics are a massive upgrade over the blocky, pixelated look of Minecraft. (DQB fans will immediately recognize the NPC and enemy designs, including the classic Slimes.)
  • The story (the world has lost the ability to build, and only you as the builder have to restore order) is pretty boilerplate in the beginning, but it does enough to motivate the story. There’s a fair bit of handholding in the demo, but the specifics of each tasks, such as what/where buildings are, are left to the player in the usual open-world fashion. With more terrain variety, you could really simulate the full Minecraft creative experience.
  • As you build towns within the game, more people come to join your settlements, and while there aren’t a lot of characters in the DQB demo, the ones that are there (Pippa the smart aleck, Rollo the bearded scholar, and the nameless deus ex machina that explains various tasks) are well-developed and interesting (even amusing) to interact with. Having a silent protagonist feels slightly awkward here (the other NPCs are forever having to “repeat” your dialogue back to you), but at least you get a laugh out of your character’s laziness.
  • The control scheme is a bit more convoluted than it should be. Character movement is mapped to the analog stick on the left Joy-Con, and it’s a bit finicky when aiming an attack or trying to place an item in a certain place. Menu navigation is inexplicably mapped to the directional buttons, and switching between the stick and the buttons takes a while to get used to. Otherwise, however, the controls are smooth and responsive

Personally, I’d like to experience a bit more of the game before handing down a “should you buy it?” judgement, but I enjoyed the demo and definitely want to dig further into the game. I’ve been meaning to explore both the Minecraft and Dragon Quest universes more, and this game lets me do both at the same time. 😉

My Thoughts On Nintendo’s Jan. 11 Mini Direct

Dear Nintendo: When I find Luke Bryan’s latest single to be more interesting than your latest Direct, that’s a really bad sign.

The Internet had been awash in Direct rumors all week, and Nintendo played along by posting bizarre images on its Twitter feed to simultaneously hype and troll its fanbase…and then suddenly, without warning, the company dropped a Mini Direct in our laps Beyonce-style and watched the world react.

This would have been a good strategy if the Direct had enough juice to generate buzz and excitement on its own, but honestly, I found it to be mostly uninteresting, as it discussed a bunch of games I either a) didn’t care about or b) had never heard of, while also not addressing some of the topics that I hoped it would.

Let’s start with what was contained in the presentation:

  • The World Ends With You: My experience with this franchise is limited to advising someone on a My Little Pony/TWEWY crossover fanfic several years ago. I was mostly confused about the idea then, and while this presentation provided some clarity, it didn’t really capture my attention. The story wasn’t appealing, and the real-time touch controls looked and sounded a bit confusing. I’m sure fans of the original game will like this, but I’ll pass on it.
  • Pokkén Tournament DX: Sorry Nintendo, but Aegislash, Blastoise, and a few new support monsters aren’t enough to get me on the Pokkén bandwagon (and this is coming from someone who thinks Squirtle is the best G1 starter). Like TWEWY, the concept of Pokémon as a fighting game just doesn’t catch my interest, and while existing players will rejoice over the new content, I’m just yawning.
  • Kirby Star Allies: Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. The gameplay doesn’t look much different than Kirby: Planet Robobot, but I really enjoyed that game, so more of the same is fine with me. The new copy abilities seemed cool, and the combination attacks looked almost OP in their effectiveness. My only concern is that given the focus on cooperative gameplay, those of us stuck playing the game by themselves won’t get the maximum amount of enjoyment from it (CPU NPCs are never as fun to work with as other humans are). It looks like a great local-multiplayer game, but I still have some questions about it as a single-player experience.
  • Kirby Battle Royale: …That’s it? All this game merits is a “hey, there’s a demo out now!” tacked on to the end of the Star Allies presentation? Way to sell a game, guys. =/
  • Dragon Quest Builders: Ditto the KBR bit above. This was the game I was the most excited about in the whole Direct, too!
  • Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition: I’d put this one in the same category as Pokkén Tournament DX: An expanded version of an existing title that I have absolutely no interest in. Existing fans will love it, and the rest of us will shrug and move on.
  • Mario Tennis Aces: Well…um…it looks more interesting than Ultra Smash, I guess? Bringing back the story mode feels like a “necessary but not sufficient” move, and reading your opponent’s placement and shot adds a bit more strategy to the game, but otherwise…it’s a tennis game. If you like tennis games, great; if you don’t, I don’t see this turning you into a fan.
  • Ys VIII: For better or worse, this looks like a Switch version of Ever Oasis. I’ve never liked having to switch between characters in an open-world real-time combat system, and the base-building component doesn’t like interesting at all. I envision myself giving the game the same wide berth I gave EO last year.
  • Mario Odyssey DLC: I’m all for free updates, but Luigi’s Balloon World looks like the type of “compete against other people!” tasks I mostly avoided during my original playthrough. The new outfits and new filters are nice, but now that I’ve mostly moved on to other games, these additions aren’t likely to draw me back in.
  • SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy: To be honest, the phrase that kept popping into my mind as I watched this was “politically incorrect.” There are enough generic 2D fighting games in the world, and given the hypersexualized avatars and uninteresting battle mechanics, this franchise would have been better left in retirement. Next!
  • ACA NeoGeo Art of Fighting 2: Didn’t I just finish complaining about generic 2D fighters? It’s got nostalgia appeal and little else.
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle DLC: Now this is the kind of DLC that would entice me to pick up an old game. I’m curious to see how the developers distinguish DK from the other characters (More power? Smaller movement range, but a larger team jump one?), and while it’s not free, a new campaign with a new character just might be enough to make it worth buying.
  • Payday 2: I’m sure this is a perfectly fine game and all, but no amount of Switch-exclusive characters is going to make me interested in it.
  • Fe: Well, I’ll at least give the development team credit for trying to work in unique mechanics and a psychedelic neon art style to try and get out of Super Mario Odyssey‘s shadow. It’s not enough to convince me to try it out, but I’m sure someone will enjoy it.
  • Celeste: This game deserves credit for its granular difficulty scale: It can be as hard as you want it to be! The pixelated art style feels a bit bare-bones, and the mechanics feel a bit unoriginal (Stamina from Breath of the Wild? Midair dashing from Cuphead?), but hey, someone will have fun with it.
  • Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze: I skipped this game on the Wii U, and while it looks like a solid game that harkens back to the DKC games of yesteryear, I’ll probably skip it on the Switch too. There’s a bigger issue at play as well: Given that we’re almost a year into the Switch’s lifecycle, Wii U ports and remixes don’t cut it for me anymore. Nintendo should be hyping a brand-new Donkey Kong game right now, and the fact that it’s pushing a Wii U port instead makes me a little concerned.
  • Dark Souls Remastered: When the announcer said “something wicked this way comes,” I thought a port of Star Wars Balltefront II was coming. Then the dark environment made me wonder if we were getting some Metroid Prime 4 footage. Then the title appeared, and I thought “What’s Dark Souls?” I have no history with this game, and thus the closing surprise fell completely flat with me.

My biggest takeaway from the Direct was not a good one: Basically, there is a very good chance that I buy nothing from this presentation. I’m intrigued by Dragon Quest Builders, and I’ll think about Kirby Star Allies and the Mario + Rabbids DLC, but otherwise I’m not interested by anything shown off here. There was a severe lack of star power here, and it makes me wonder if Nintendo dropped it without warning because it knew it didn’t have a lot to show and didn’t want to risk having a huge buildup for something this boring.

Then, of course, we have the things Nintendo didn’t talk about here:

  • The 3DS: Aside from the Kirby Battle Royale demo, Nintendo’s other console was nowhere to be found in the presentation. While Nintendo isn’t completely finished with the console (Detective Pikachu was given a March release date within the last 48 hours, but it was inexplicably left out of the Direct), it’s a strong indication that the 3DS’s days are officially numbered (a decision I strongly disagree with).
  • amiiboApparently Detective Pikachu is getting a new amiibo, but otherwise no new figurines were announced. As I posited earlier this week, I think Nintendolls are headed for the dustbin of history.
  • Mobile Offerings: No mobile announcements were here either, but that’s not totally surprising, as Nintendo likes to do special presentations for its phone offerings.
  • Online Services for the Switch: I’ve been waiting for more information on the Switch’s online functionality since last summer, and aside from some fine print on a few trailers here, Nintendo didn’t give it to me. I’ve been skeptical about this actually happening for a while (does the Big N really want to do something to blunt the console’s momentum?), but I’m really getting antsy about it now.
  • AAA First-Party Titles: No Metroid Prime 4, no Fire Emblem, no Super Smash Bros., no Mario Maker, not even freaking Yoshi! The Kirby franchise is great, but Star Allies isn’t a Direct-anchoring kind of game, and the lack of buzzworthy Nintendo franchises really made this presentation a snoozer. Given how quickly games like ARMS and Pokkén Tournament were forgotten last year, it’s fair to ask whether Nintendo crammed a few too many franchises in its 2017 schedule and will pay a price for that this year.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this presentation, as there was very little shown that I was interested in. It wasn’t a bad presentation by any means, but it wasn’t good either, and putting your audience to sleep like this Direct did is about the worst thing a performance can do.

Better luck next time, Nintendo.